The Packaged Film Era
For the rest of the 1940’s Disney had to tremendously cut back on his film production. Most of his staff had been drafted for the war so Disney was forced to stop producing full length animated films. Disney started producing packaged films, films that have segments all loosely connected by a certain theme. Disney produced 6 packaged films before returning to full length animated features. They are Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros, Make Mine Music, Fun and Fancy Free, Melody Time and the Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.
Saludos Amigos was the first of these packaged films and it’s central theme is South America. It is Disney shortest feature at only 42 minutes. Saludos Amigos danced into our lives on February 6, 1943. One segment has Donald Duck dealing with a stubborn llama while touring the city of Lake Titicaca. The next segment is about Pedro a small airplane who loves to fly and deliver the mail, even if it means flying over the massive Mount Aconcagua. Another segment features Goofy as a cowboy and Donald meets Jose Carioca and they dance the samba together. Saludos Amigos is not a bad movie and it helped keep Disney alive during the war.
The Three Caballeros is a sequel to Saludos Amigos and centers around Donald’s birthday. The Three Caballeros came out on February 3, 1945. In this film Donald meets various birds from around the world such as Pablo the cold blooded penguin and Panchito Pistoles from Mexico and with the returning character of Jose Carioca they become along with Donald the Three Caballeros. This movie is an improvement on Saludos Amigos and has become very popular over the years. The Three Caballeros can be seen mostly in Epcot around Mexico and you ride the Gran Fiesta featuring the Three Caballeros in the Mexico Pavilion.
Make Mine Music is an awesome addition to the packaged era. And if you guessed that music is the theme then you guessed correctly. There are many segments in this movie and my favorites are the Johniee Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet, Peter and the Wolf and The Whale Who wanted to sing at the Met. The hat song is a story about 2 hats who are in love and desperately try to stay with each other. It is very sweet and a nice story. Peter and the Wolf is a unique feature in that all of the characters have an assigned instrument that plays whenever they are on screen. And the final segment is a bittersweet tale of a whale who can sing and has a dream of preforming at the Met. Also Casey at the Bat is also in this film. There are a few nods to this film in the Disney parks. Casey’s which is a restaurant on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom is based off of this movie, Willie the whale can be seen in a picture in Mickey’s Philharmagic show. Make Mine Music is very good Disney movie that needs to be watch at least once. One of the segments called Blue Bayou was supposed to be featured in Fantasia. Go watch Make Mine Music, you won’t be disappointed.
Fun and Fancy Free only 2 segments but these have become some of Disney’s best work. Jiminy Cricket connects the 2 shorts together and sings a song that was deleted from Pinocchio. We hear the tales of how Bongo the circus bear finds love and Mickey and the Beanstalk. This is also the last time that Walt Disney voiced Mickey Mouse. Bongo is a sweet story about a circus bear who answers the call of the wild and meets his dream girl Lulubelle. And Mickey and the Beanstalk is the story of Jack and the Beanstalk but instead of Jack we get Mickey, Donald and Goofy. Both stories are awesome and iconic. Overall Fun and Fancy Free is one of the better packaged films that we got during this era and I love it a lot. Willie the giant has become a supporting character in other Mickey Mouse related projects although I am not sure if Bongo is featured as much. I do know that he spawned some comic stories. In the Disney parks Sir Mickey’s is a shop in the Magic Kingdom in Disney World and has a Mickey and the Beanstalk theme. Give this movie some love, you won’t regret it.
The second to last packaged film is another classic that many people love. Melody Time. It is an awesome packaged film once again with the theme being music. There are many gems here. Little Toot is an awesome story about a little tugboat which became very popular. Johnny Appleseed is another favorite of mine, but the most famous segment has to be Pecos Bill. Told by a live action cast about a cowboy who defies logic. He is awesome and can ride tornadoes and shoot stars and howls at the moon. The Pecos Bill cafe in the Magic Kingdom is one of my favorite places to eat at in the Magic Kingdom. There is not many other references to the movie however, which is a shame because this movie is great. That is the thing about these packaged films, they may not be full length animated features but all of them are awesome in there own right. I can’t think of any of them I dislike. Almost all of them have some presence in the parks too. Watch Melody Time and see what you think.
And now we come to the final and possibly the most famous of the packaged films The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. These two stories don’t have a lot in common other than they are famous American novels. The Wind in the Willows tells of Mr. Toad and his many manias. It is a nice story and is funny and has heart and is not hard to watch. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is a famous and beloved ride that used to live in the Magic Kingdom. But since Toad gave the deed to the ride to Owl it is now a Winnie the Pooh ride. However you can still visit Toad in Disneyland. I like Moley the best in this story. He is cute and timid and really tries to be there for his friend Toad even if he shouldn’t be. Now lets talk about the Headless Horseman and Ichabod Crane. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is not for the faint of heart and is rather spooky. Told by Bing Crosby the Legend of Sleepy Hollow is about this weird schoolmaster and his rivalry with the predecessor to Gaston, Brom Bones. Both of them have their eyes on the lovely Katrina who looks an awful lot like Cinderella. Brom Bones tells the tale of the Headless Horseman and that night Ichabod come face to no face with the Headless Horseman. This Horseman has a crazy spooky laugh and all he wants to do is chop Ichabod’s head off. We don’t know exactly what happens to Crane but I can tell you this, he will never forget the tale of the Headless Horseman. These 2 cartoons are featured in the Disney parks. Although Ichabod doesn’t have a ride, but the Headless Horseman leads the parade on Halloween. Watch this movie it is a good one.
So there we have it. Those are the packaged films that were produced by Disney to stay in business during the war. It was a very rough time. Disney was facing bankruptcy. If nothing changed Disney would have no choice but to close it’s doors. But luckily for us dreams do come true. And we enter the Silver Era.
Coming soon the Silver Era